Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Response to Saving My Knees: Two Things That Surprised Me

Writing a book is an odd endeavor, as any author can attest. You spend hours alone, playing with words on a page, trying to find places where clarity has eluded you, where important material facts have been omitted, where unimportant material facts have been included, where sentence rhythms falter, and where a word simply doesn't fit.

After the long, solitary act of writing, an author releases this much-fussed over creation to the world at large, at which point what happens is anyone's guess. That's part of the fun (and the anxiety) of the craft.

I thought today I'd share two surprises, for me, on the reaction to Saving My Knees.

1. The positive response of people who completely identified with my knee pain woes.

Obviously, I thought Saving My Knees contained a message that transcended the particulars of my own story, or I wouldn't have bothered writing the book. However, I didn't expect people to relate so thoroughly to my struggles as to say, "I feel like you were writing my own story." But that's exactly the reaction I got from a handful of readers.

That's something I find quite gratifying, for the most part (I tack on "for the most part" simply because of the implication that others are getting much of the bad advice I got). It shows me that the things I did to heal my troubled knees can probably benefit lots of others.

2. No one has come out and said, in so many words, "You're an idiot and here's why."

This is without a doubt the biggest surprise post-publication of Saving My Knees. I've shared my experience (and somewhat controversial beliefs) on two forums that attract thousands of people suffering from the same kind of knee pain I had. I have written this blog for over a year. I have penned a piece about cartilage healing for Huffington Post, a site that ranks in the top 25 in the U.S. in popularity.

I figured at some point an informed critic -- maybe a doctor or physical therapist -- would emerge from the shadows and challenge me: "I'm sorry, Mr. Bedard, but your beliefs about X are wrong because of this and that."

For example, everywhere you look on the Internet, experts are advising patients with chronic knee pain to focus on strengthening their quads -- a potentially disastrous bit of advice, I think, when stronger knees should be the objective. And I've written as much, repeatedly. Yet a believer in the "strengthen your quads" philosophy has never told me I'm an idiot, and knees can't be strengthened, and here's why "strengthen your quads" makes the most sense.

Why? I'm sure part of the reason is that I'm still shouting from atop a very small platform. I don't have the highly visible profile that invites attack. And, since I'm not a doctor, people may tend to dismiss me as "just some guy who got lucky and fixed his bad knees." Which, if you read Saving My Knees, you will know is not true. I did fix my bad knees, but luck had nothing to do with it.

But I wonder too if there's another reason: that, even among the experts, there's a lot of doubt about whether the conventional advice for treating chronic knee pain really does make sense. Maybe there are suspicions that the prevalent thinking -- including the "strengthen the quads" prescription -- is lacking, and there must be a better way, because so many patients don't get better.

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